When Archie Comics CEO Jon Goldwater joined the publisher in 2009, he told his editorial and creative teams to bring diversity to Riverdale. Rising to the challenge, veteran Archie writer and artist Dan Parent suggested the introduction of a gay character, and within a year, Kevin Keller was born. Making his debut in "Veronica" #202 in September, 2010, Kevin was an instant hit with fans (well, 98 percent based on Parent's calculations). The issue sold out, which led to Archie Comics releasing the first-ever reprint in the company's history.
Fast forward to 2016, and Kevin has become one of Archie's most popular characters. This June, the publisher launches a new digital comic series titled "Life with Kevin," starring a young adult version of Kevin written and drawn by Parent, with J. Bone sharing art duties.
Parent shared details about Kevin's new stories with CBR News, including the fact that Shrill, a goth character he introduced in "Archie #625," will be featured in the series. Veronica Lodge, Kevin's best friend, also plays a role, but the other supporting characters have been created especially for "Life with Kevin."
CBR News: You've been quoted as saying, "Not everybody's particularly happy about [Kevin Keller], but from where I'm sitting it's been about 98 percent positive." What's up with the other two percent?Â
Dan Parent: Well, if everybody's happy, then you're doingÂ somethingÂ wrong! Almost everybody likes Kevin, but yeah, there are someÂ who don't. But it's a tiny group!Â
Obviously, creating the first openly gay character in Archie Comics history was going to make waves, but there's a lot more to Kevin Keller than being gay. Why do you think the character has resonated so well with fans?
People respond to likable characters. Kevin was created to be the boy next door -- sort of an everyman who, of course, just happens to be gay.
Was he conceived as Kevin Keller, or did he go through different permutations before he was eventually introduced in "Veronica" #202? Â
The basic structure of Kevin was generallyÂ theÂ same, but there wereÂ definitelyÂ different ideas early on that went through changes.Â For example, in an earlyÂ draftÂ of the story, Kevin had aÂ crush on Jughead. And early Kevin was a little more insecure, but we changed it since Veronica was insecure enough for the both of them!
Archie Comics has recently enjoyed success with its re-launches of "Archie" and "Jughead." The two iconic characters are both well into their seventies., while Kevin Keller is a spring chicken, relatively speaking, having been created by you in 2010. Will we be seeing a new take on Kevin Keller in "Life with Kevin"?
Yes, it'sÂ definitelyÂ a new take on Kevin. Kevin is an adult now, so he will be in more adult situations. Not in a racy way, but we can be more open with stories of aÂ youngÂ single gay man on his own in a big city! There will be career storylines, new characters to meet and lots of datingÂ storylines. And there's pop culture fun thrown in. The stories are a good merge of classic Archie with a definite new sensibility.
"Life with Kevin" is not set within the same continuity as "Archie" and "Jughead," right?Â
Correct. In this story Kevin isÂ aroundÂ 21 years old -- not as old as the "Life with Archie" characters from a fewÂ yearsÂ ago, butÂ definitely older than the classic Riverdale characters.
What can you tell us about where we find Kevin as the series opens?
In the opener, we find Kevin moving into his new apartment and sayingÂ goodbye to his family. He's getting his first real taste ofÂ freedom!
I'm really digging the beard in the promotional art. Can you talk about Kevin's new look?
Well, we all know Kevin is a good looking guy, and IÂ reallyÂ want to showcase that in the new series. Sort of like how for years we've shown how beautiful Betty andÂ VeronicaÂ are, and are admired by men and women.Â Turnabout isÂ fair play, and we want men and women, straight and gay, to like Kevin's new look!
Who is featured in the supporting cast, and will it be a mix of classic characters and new ones?
The supporting cast is all new characters, with the exception of Shrill, aÂ minor characterÂ from Riverdale who will get more play here. Veronica is the only main characterÂ coming to this series,Â because, well, her and Kevin have been BFFs since early on, andÂ Veronica brings a lot of comedy to theÂ series! She's a real hot mess, now, and it really messes up Kevin's world!
"Life with Kevin" is being released as a digital series. As a creator, do you need to do things differently when creating for online? And are there any plans to release the series in print at a later date?Â
Well, the deadlines are a bitÂ easierÂ digitally,Â sinceÂ weÂ don't have the printing time toÂ contend with. There is talk ofÂ compiling all five issues into a trade later,Â which would be ideal since it's always nice to hold that print edition in your hand!
This go-round with the character, you are writing and drawing him, but one of my personal favorites -- J. Bone -- is providing art as well. What does Jay bring to the series, and particularly, Kevin? Will he be inkingÂ andÂ providing art for interiors? Â
J. Bone is awesome and adds a cool design-y edge to my art. We're going for a more graphic tone with art, and he's perfect.Â He draws great looking guys and adds thatÂ element to my art. He's inking, or ratherÂ finishing, my art. He's doneÂ some pinups and fashions, too! He's great to work with!
"Life with Kevin" will be available digitally on the Archie app and other digital comics platforms starting in June.